FARMINGTON — More than a week has passed since Barack Obama delivered the State of the Union speech calling for a higher minimum wage for workers, and local businesses have mixed reactions to the president's statement.
During his speech, Obama announced his intentions to issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally-funded employees an hourly wage of at least $10.10 an hour. He urged state and county leaders to also raise wages.
"This will help families. It will give businesses customers with more money to spend," Obama said.
However, owners of Mike's ATV, a small engine repair shop in Aztec, said employee compensation shouldn't be up to the federal government.
"I would like to make that decision myself," said Vikki Flanary, who along with her husband, Michael, runs the mom-and-pop business.
She said the small business has two part-time employees and a mandatory increase to wages could hurt the couple's business and force employees to work fewer hours. One employee who runs the front counter earns about $8 an hour while a part-time technician earns about $13 an hour.
Michael Flanary said if wages were raised, he would mostly likely reduce hours or let go of employees.
"I would cut people to afford to pay one (employee) with wages like that," he said.
Ray Hagerman, chief executive officer for Four Corners Economic Development, said he worries that higher wages could equal job loss.
"The implementation would have to be extremely thoughtful because I'm afraid that some jobs would completely eliminated," he said.
He added companies should have the ability to compensate workers at lower wages if the tasks don't need an intermediate level of training, or if the worker is being trained for a job.
He said allowing those provisions would help younger workers who are more concerned with gaining job experience than higher wages, and those types of jobs could be lost as a result of higher wages.
"We'd end up having a bunch of youngsters not having work available," he said.
Meanwhile, Mike Fauteaux, who has had different small businesses in the Farmington area since 1995, said an increase in minimum wages wouldn't affect his operations much.
"My people are trained to do what they do, they are paid for the skills that they have," he said.
Fauteaux runs a hair salon, phone repair shop and a professional carpet cleaning business.
He said he pays his employees more than minimum wage because he believes employee moral is affected by wages and employees perform better when they feel they are fairly compensated for their work.
He added that training an employee is an investment in his business. For his carpet cleaning business, it can take as long as two months to train new employees.
"If I had to train a person for two months, and a month later, they leave for a job that pays 50 cents more an hour, I just lost two months of training," he said.
As for the Flanarys, Vikki Flanary said the couple would like to pay workers more, but the decision should still remain with each business.
"We'd rather help someone out," she said about higher wages, "but it takes time to build a business."Erny Zah is The Daily Times business editor. He can be reached at 505-564-4638.and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @ernyzah on Twitter.